Destination Spas

Few things are as relaxing as a couple of days at a top-notch spa.


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It stands to reason that with all the sources of stress in our lives, there should be more ways to relieve stress as well. That no doubt is why so many spas of all kinds have popped up in recent years. Every town in Connecticut seems to have one, and lots of towns have multiple options. But how about those times when you want to get out of town, to get away, to lose yourself for a few days? For those occasions, there is a new generation of destination spas, places dedicated in every respect to your relaxation and sense of well-being. After you’ve read about the marvelous spots we found during our recent travels, you may want to plan your own getaway much sooner than you thought.

Mayflower Inn, Washington

When you have over a decade-and-a-half developed and nurtured Connecticut’s only five-star, five-diamond Relais & Chateaux property, overseeing the selection of just the right tapestries, objets d’art and flowering orchids for each of its 24 luxurious guest rooms and suites, adding a spa is no casual affair. Certainly not for Mayflower Inn owners Adriana Mnuchin, a successful entrepreneur (Tennis Lady and Cashmere-Cashmere), and her husband Robert, former Goldman Sachs managing director and the inn’s horticulturist par excellence. Once an additional 30-acre parcel next to the Mayflower’s lushly landscaped original 30 acres became available, Adriana decided to build a spa, not a day spa but a destination spa worth the trip from anywhere. She and her daughter, filmmaker Lisa Hedley, traveled the country, checking out the best of the best, then came home and began fashioning an exclusive small spa (maximum 28 guests) that since it opened last year has vaulted to the top of virtually every luxury-travel magazine’s best-destination-spa list.

So my expectations were high. Yet I wondered how a modern spa would mesh with this traditional English-country-house-style inn.

Beautifully, it turns out. The new 20,000-square-foot Spa House, set up and over the hill behind the original inn and past the garden maze and putting green, draws its architectural inspiration from the inn; next to it is a new six-room guest house—done with the same impeccable taste and attention to detail as the inn—so activities and treatments are just steps away for six lucky spa-goers. Others stay at the inn, an advantage of a different sort as breakfast and dinner are served there (if you wish to dine in, room service is also offered).

Arriving for my five-day women’s week, I met first with my spa adviser to schedule my activities (yoga, cardio, aquatic dance, sound therapy with singing bowls, the Zen of archery, hiking at nearby Steeprock Nature Preserve—you are encouraged to try one new thing) and treatments (imagine the Sweet Violet Facial, Wild Lime Shiatsu Fusion [a Shiatsu-inspired massage], Deep Lavender Embrace, Thermal Sanctuary Experience and Sweet Surrender, a calming blend of cranio-sacral, lymphatic and acupressure touching delivered by magic hands). Taken together, they would address my goals of feeling fitter, reducing stress and shedding some pounds. Each of my five sister guests, from New York City mothers to Midwestern retirees, created her own plan, and we were soon off to our activities, most with two to four women, or having our treatments. In between we relaxed in an ethereally white garden room with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking a peaceful pond, its shimmering surface broken only by the occasional landing of the resident blue heron. This room, anchored by a de Kooning from the Mnuchins’ personal collection and filled with coffee-table art books to pore over at leisure, is the heart of the spa, at once a personal oasis and a cocoon of comfort. At lunch, where we bonded in the adjacent sky-blue loggia over tofu wraps and organic veggies, we commiserated over our imperfect bodies and overloaded lifestyles. At dinner, a more gourmet affair back at the inn, we learned to our delight that prosciutto-wrapped halibut and crème brûlée healthfully prepared could still be delicious and satisfying,

I admit to being a spa-aholic—rarely met one I didn’t like—but what made the Mayflower experience special to me, beyond the divine facility and original offerings, was its intimacy. The staff make you feel you are their only guest, your concerns become theirs, and they and your sister guests become friends and partners with you in helping you reach a healthier lifestyle, greater peace of mind and serenity of spirit—which, hopefully, will carry over when you get home. And if you fall off the wagon? Our group is planning a Mayflower Spa reunion—same time next year.

Destination Spas

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